The number of Queensland bushfires was steady at 72 on Tuesday afternoon, but the number of homes lost is believed to have increased from 16 to at least 21, pending damage assessments.
The Bureau of Meteorology expects south-east Queensland temperatures to reach 6-10 degrees above average on Wednesday and the Darling Downs could go as high as 12 degrees above average.
Meteorologist Dean Narramore said Wednesday’s peak would not be as bad as others in recent weeks, but it would still “exacerbate fire conditions”.
“We are expecting north-northeasterly winds around 20-30km/h from the late morning to late afternoon, but we could see gusts up to 40 or even 50km/h,” he said.
“Today we had westerly winds so the eastern side was the main firefront, but with these easterly winds expected tomorrow, that will make the western side the main firefront.
“So if there is a house on the western side of a bushfire, they were safe today, but tomorrow the wind shift will push the flames towards them.”
Gatton, 75 kilometres west of Brisbane, was predicted to reach a maximum of 39 degrees on Wednesday, while Ipswich was expecting a top 37.
Esk, 65 kilometres north-west of Brisbane, was forecast to hit 38 degrees, while Beaudesert, about 60 kilometres south of Brisbane, was predicted to reach 37.
Brisbane was set for a top of 32 degrees on Wednesday, the Gold Coast suburb of Nerang was forecast to hit 34, while the Sunshine Coast suburb of Caloundra was expecting 31.
Mr Narramore said conditions were expected to ease on Thursday with temperatures only 2-6 degrees above average in the south-east and lighter, cooler winds.
Meanwhile, Queensland Fire and Emergency Services deputy commissioner Mark Roche said he believed at least five homes were lost in the Pechey bushfire overnight, but fire crews had not been able to get into the affected area to carry out damage assessments.
Police have also revealed that since the state of emergency declaration on November 9, 18 people were charged with being involved in a deliberately lit fire and 10 of those were juveniles.
Further figures, released following questions from the state opposition, showed 136 juvenile arsonists were charged in 2017 and 2018, with 63 given a warning while 32 faced the justice system.
Opposition Leader Deb Frecklington wants juvenile arsonists to “be made to front up, apologise to their victims and even attend a burns unit”, but the state government said this already happens.
Fire and Emergency Services Minister Craig Crawford said juvenile arsonists can complete a program during which they sit down with bushfires victims and firefighters to talk about fire and its impacts.
Police acting assistant commissioner Roger Lowe said the majority of the 10 juvenile arsonists charged this month started the fires through misadventure and tried to put the flames out.
More than 168,300 hectares of Queensland bushland, equivalent to more than 235,000 football pitches, has been burnt so far during this bushfire season.
Toby Crockford is a breaking news reporter at the Brisbane Times